The big snowy-white hand of winter with its icicle fingernails is knocking on the door so it’s time to get your garden ready for the toughest season of all, rather than waltz off with a ‘see you in spring’ leaving it to its own devices.
Heavy snowfalls and icy conditions can be devastating to your garden’s plants and trees. Knocking off the snow resting on the leaves and branches with a flick of the wrist while it’s still soft and fresh can help prevent severe damage.
Keep your garden tidy
Clearing up leaves and other detritus is a lot easier when crisp and dry and before they turn into a big sludgy mess. Give your paving a clean with a brush and soapy water while you’re at it because this will make it less slippy ahead of the frost arriving and if you have a pressure washer, you’re laughing.
Check those borders
Cut back the herbaceous perennials in your borders so that they’re only about six to eight inches high as they begin to die down and remove annuals that are done. Your spent plants will protect the soil, reducing erosion if left in place through the winter. They can also provide homes for overwintering pollinators. Remove dead foliage, leaves, and weeds too.
Compost Garden and Flower Beds
Empty compost bins and spread all over the fresh soil or use organic fertilisers. Composting during the autumn allows the nutrients more time to break down and infiltrate deeper into the soil, providing better future growing conditions. Spread a thin layer of compost over the top of the soil and then work the compost deeper into the ground sometime around or just after the first freeze.
Adding a layer of mulch or dead leaves on top of your beds helps to protect any plants left in the ground from freezing temperatures. The mulch will also help to prevent rain, snow, and ice from washing away your topsoil or leeching out its nutrients
Shrubs and trees
Prune branches on your structural shrubs to improve their shape, and you might also want to give your hedges a final trim before the frosts hit. Remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches, particularly with your trees, to prevent the stems from rubbing together and creating wounds.
Move any pots planted with tender species like Cannas, Agapanthus or palms, into a conservatory or greenhouse for shelter during the winter.
Small deciduous trees, shrubs and roses can be lifted bare-root and replanted before mid-March, but everything else, especially evergreens and conifer requires rootballing – that’s where a ball of soil is retained around the roots, to preserve the fine root system and protect from desiccation and frost.
Tidy ponds and remove water features
Covering ponds with a net can prevent them from clogging up with leaves plus you might want to a murky-looking pond. During frosts, ensure that the water’s surface doesn’t completely freeze over if there are fish in it. Perhaps pop a ball to float on the water.
You might want to pack up and retire water features to the house or the garage until the spring so that the frost doesn’t seize up the mechanisms.
Prepare the lawn
Go over your entire lawn with a rake to remove thatch and moss to allow it to breathe and grow. Autumn lawn feed and moss killer products can also help.
Plant out spring-flowering bulbs and vegetables
Before the ground freezes is the ideal time to plant any early-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodil, iris, and snowdrops so that they’ll bloom in the spring. Many varieties of perennials also work well when planted in the winter due to the drier ground and lower temperatures.
They all like well-fertilised, free-draining soil, so dig in lots of sharp sand and some bone meal for a slow release of nutrients that will feed the bulbs over a long period.
The general rule of thumb for bulb planting is to plant at two or three times the depth of the bulb itself. Spacing also works well at two or three times the width of the bulb, and planting the same variety of bulb in large drifts looks beautiful.
If you’re growing a vegetable garden, planting onions and garlic during the autumn allows them to be harvested several months earlier the following year.